Natural Conversation

When is she coming?

“As soon as she arrives,” I tell the seashells.

Will we control her again?

“Don’t be silly — we cannot control anything,” I remind the sponges.

Then how can we be sure she’ll do as we wish?

“Do you look at her as she manicures us?” I ask the driftwood. “There is joy in her face.”

But what makes her work so hard on our behalf?

I sigh at their lack of understanding. “Because it’s in her nature.”

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest that’s a whole mess of fun

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Friday Fictioneers: The Signifying Leg

My leg has become my identity. Hobbling down the street, passersby here the distinct clatter of my prosthetic, and look down.

“Thank you for your service,” one of them says on occasion without looking up, like slaves terrified of addressing their master.

I no longer spare them. “I slipped under a commuter train, getting to work,” I reply. Nobody ever apologizes.

I may as well be invisible, save for my leg. If I could power it remotely, I’d send it on its own, and shatter the illusion of normalcy.

[Friday Fictioneers is a weekly photo prompt challenge. Join the fun!]

Trust Imagination

It was some time in November 1990 — I don’t know the actual date, or even the day of the week — when I walked into an office on the northwest side of Chicago and worked my first day in a “real” job. I had just finished the coursework for my doctorate in literature, and my attempts to earn enough money to feed myself through teaching and grants were proving to be frustrating and futile. When the offer of a steady paycheck came up, I was too desperate to say no. My idea at the time was to test the waters for a few months, and if I seemed to be swimming all right, I’d stick with it until I finished my dissertation. Six years later, diploma in hand, I finally left that job — and immediately took on another, which eventually lead to another, and another, until eventually I had close to three decades of experience working with many wonderful and some truly awful people, in addition to a heavy dose of corporate systemic incompetence.

Yesterday, that ended.

After turning in my laptop and identification badge to my manager, I walked out of my most recent office building for the last time. Twenty-seven years and eight months of steady employment, interrupted by a few brief voluntary transition periods, has been left behind in order to pursue making a living as a writer. It’s an ambitious goal, one I had considered as far back as 1990 when it became apparent my academic career was going nowhere. I had known many professional writers during my university years, and they spoke regularly of the occupation’s difficulty, going so far as to actively discourage students like myself from its pursuit. I was easily persuaded (a fault that carries with me to this day), and took the advice to pursue a more practical career.

Yet the desire to write, not as a hobby but as a career — to write as if my life (or at least its creature comforts) depended on it — never left. During those brief periods of unemployment, as well as those times when the mundanity of working life seemed unendurable, I was tempted to finally act on my ambition, only to have those dire warnings from the past urge me to play it safe once more.

So why make the move now? Years of good financial planning, and (let’s be honest) incredibly good fortune, have put my wife and I in a good position. We’re not independently wealthy, but we can afford to take on a little risk in both our careers. My wife runs a cake decorating business out of our home — check it out. We’ll need to earn a living for at least another decade, but if I need to be working, I want to finally do the job, the only job, I’ve always wanted to do.

When I walked out that door yesterday, I started on a new path. journey ahead is full of more uncertainty than I can ever recall. But I’ve never been so certain that I’m on the right path.

On occasion, I use this blog to comment on music. After turning in my notice at work a few weeks back, I was listening to random songs on my phone when a gem from Peter Gabriel started playing. He wrote the song immediately after leaving Genesis, and the decision to pursue his own career left him feeling anxiously excited. I’ve enjoyed the frenetic energy of this song, with its unusual yet uplifting rhythm, for decades, but hearing it now, as I felt my own heart going boom-boom-boom in response to my career move, made me appreciate its power in a way I couldn’t comprehend before. To get what you want, you have to let go of what you have; to stop playing it safe, you have to trust imagination.

Looking Ahead to 2018

Today marks the end of a long vacation, far from the frigid eastern half of the United States to which I will be shortly returning. I’m not one for resolutions on New Years Day, but I do work better when I operate under some form of plan. And now seems like a good time to reflect on the past year, and look ahead to the next.

Back in February, I decided it was time to stop blogging on a daily basis, as I realized my streak of daily posting was impressing nobody except myself. Unfortunately, in the months after that decision, I’ve struggled to come up with a consistent blogging practice in its place. Too many times, I’ve gone weeks without posting. Not what I had intended, at all.

My current thought is that I need to commit to writing three or four posts a week, each on a different recurring topic. Book reviews, which I’ve enjoyed writing over the past week, is one such topic; maybe not a book, but a movie, or online magazine. Other topics I’ve thought of have been flash fiction contests, and reblogs from bloggers I admire.

So there you have it. For each of the coming weeks in 2018, I want to write a post on each of the following topics:

  • Reviewing
  • Flash fiction
  • Reblogging

Mixed in with these posts will be the occasional multi-post short story, political commentary, and of course some awful poetry.

That should keep my busy for the coming year.

A Change of Plans

When I began drafting chapter 9 of Gray Metal Faces, I had planned to revise chapters 8 (drafted in April this year) and 9 for this year’s NaNoWriMo. But soon after completing that final chapter, I decided to take my writing in a different direction this November.

Last year’s NaNoWriMo (during which I revised chapters 6 and 7) was very rewarding, as it demonstrated I had the drive, dedication, and discipline to undertake an enormous project, and complete it successfully. However, the experience also left me completely drained, and I knew a similar effort this year would be equally as exhausting. And in the past month, I’ve started several other writing projects, all of which would need to be put on hold as I fought my way through the revision. Chapters 8 and 9 will be revised — I’ve spent too much time on this novel, and it’s too close to being ready for an agent or editor’s review, for me to abandon the project. But there’s a time for all things, and now is not the time for this effort.

So while it’s NoNaNoWriMo this year, there will be time for other activities, such as a return to daily blogging on this site. And I’ll begin today with a reblog from Andra Watkins, who shares some exciting plans for her own writing career.

First of Many

Reached a milestone today — my first rejection. This is not failure, but progress. It’s now time to read the submission guidelines for the second journal, format my manuscript to get it in compliance, and submit that story again.

I’ve got 99 more rejections to accumulate in the coming year, so there’s no time to waste. On to the next rejection, and the next, until I finally get an acceptance, and then move on to my next series of rejections.

Now, for part three

Wrote my pitch letters for part 2 of my freelance writing workshop last night. (Interesting observation: for the first part of the workshop two weeks ago, we had around 15 people. For the second part last night, for which we had an assignment, only four people returned.) Feedback on my pitches was largely positive (I need to clarify the angle for each of my stories), and I was encouraged to submit them to actual publications. Consider that part three of the workshop — applying what I’ve learned to the real world. Taking a workshop or course is definitely within my comfort zone, but the time has come to be more daring.